Psychosocial Stressors – Sahaja Online Psychosocial Stressors – Sahaja Online


Psychosocial Stressors

Psychosocial Stressors: Loss, Stress, Trauma & Troubled Relationships

Clinical depression can be triggered by one or more severe psychosocial stressors.

Psychosocial stressors are stress-triggering events that can impact our social and psychological behavior. The most common adult psychosocial stressors include romantic relationship breakups, the death of a loved one, economic hardships, racism and discrimination, poor physical health, and assaults on physical safety. But other more subtle factors that impact a person’s sense of identity and self-esteem can contribute to depression; for example, a job demotion, or a spouse who constantly belittles and criticizes.

Bereavement and Loss

Few losses in life have as much impact on us as the death of a loved one. Grief, in fact, can have such a severe emotional impact that some degree of depressed mood for the weeks and months following bereavement is considered to be a “normal” response. The death of a child or spouse during early or mid-adult life is far less common than divorce or the breakup of a long-term relationship, but generally is a far more powerful depression trigger. And unfortunately, many are less likely to seek treatment during bereavement, unless the severity of the emotional and behavioral disturbance is incapacitating or someone close to them intervenes.

Common Symptoms of Bereavement

Common symptoms associated with bereavement include crying spells, appetite changes, weight loss, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, and rumination. Bereaved people may also feel unwarranted guilt, believing they could have prevented the death. But it’s important to understand that most people who are grieving a loss are not clinically depressed (although, people with a previous history of clinical depression will be more prone to it). Grief, after all, which may share symptoms with depression, is not a disorder. It’s a normal reaction to loss. Clinical depression, on the other hand, is abnormal and requires treatment. It can be helpful for anyone who’s suffering substantial impairment in work, health, and social functioning for sustained periods to seek help from a mental health professional who can make this determination.

While grief is a normal reaction to loss and is not a disorder, if grief is prolonged and impairs a person’s daily functioning, intervention may be necessary.

(For a deeper look at how Sahaja helps manage grief and loss, see Managing Loss & Grief: How Sahaja Helps.)

Situational stressors and traumatic events.

Although some stressors are so powerful that they could trigger depression in most mentally healthy people, most stressful life events shouldn’t trigger depression in mentally healthy, emotionally resilient people. Rather, stressful events are more likely to trigger mental health problems in those who are vulnerable biologically, socially, and/or psychologically.

In general, those who tend to be at greater statistical risk for depression as a result of stress and trauma include: women, young and unmarried people, African Americans, and individuals with lower socioeconomic status (NIMH, 1999).

A life-threatening accident or physical assault (e.g., assault, robbery, rape) often provokes in its victims emotional and behavioral reactions that jeopardize their mental health. In the most fully developed form, this syndrome is called Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD following life-threatening traumas. (For more on PTSD, see Understanding Anxiety Disorders.)

Life transitions can also trigger symptoms of depression.

Normal, but significant life transitions can also trigger depression; for example, moving, school graduation, changing jobs, losing a job, getting married or divorced, retirement. In fact, some research has shown that any type of life change is stressful, whether positive or negative,  especially when multiple changes occur with a short period of time. Change can make us feel that we’re losing control, and managing change requires good coping skills that allow us to effectively manage the accompanying stress.

(To score your own stress risk level based on recent life changes, see Stress Scale.)

Troubled Relationships

Depression insinuates itself into our relationships, engineering a ripple effect that touches everyone around us. Depression is both caused by — and a cause of — poor relationships. Relationship problems impose a constant chronic strain on our emotional well-being. Relationship problems include unsatisfactory intimate relationships, conflicted relationships with parents, siblings, and children, or a falling-out with work colleagues, neighbors or friends. Sometimes depressed people are oblivious to the impact of their depression on the people around them. Unfortunately, people with depression are often not much fun to be around, which only gives them something else to feel guilty about.

While they crave connection just like anyone else, people with depression may pull away and find it difficult to connect.

Depressed people crave connection to other humans, but the very nature of depression makes it difficult for them to connect to others. People with depression often have trouble stating their needs directly and knowing how to get their needs met; instead, they may be inclined to keep their wishes secret, virtually guaranteeing that they will go unfulfilled.

People struggling with depression typically have lower self-esteem, and may be overly conscious of other’s evaluations.

Many people with depression have a leak in the part of the self that nurtures a positive self-image, which results in a depleted, unreliable reservoir of self-esteem. As a result, they become overly dependent on love, respect, and approval from the key people in their lives, and if they don’t get the positive feedback they crave, the depression worsens.

If they can’t get the positive connections they so crave, people with depression may turn to outward signs of success, such as material wealth.

Sometimes this endless need is not obvious, and what’s observable is a dependency on the symbols of love, respect and approval; for example, financial success, control or power. In fact, people with depression often chase the symbols of success to fill the void inside. They may form such faulty beliefs as: “If I’m no longer financially successful, the people who are important to me won’t love me anymore.” Or: “If I don’t keep working harder than anyone else, nobody will respect me.”

Psychosocial stressors such as loss, trauma and relationship problems tend to play a more significant role in triggering the first and second Major Depressive Episodes, but less of a role in triggering subsequent episodes.